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Archive for the ‘Hurray for the Riff Raff’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 16, 2018] Hurray for the Riff Raff

 I knew of Hurray for the Riff Raff (I love the band name) from a couple of songs, but it wasn’t until their most recent release that I learned that lead singer (and really the constant of the band) Alynda Segarra was not only Puerto Rican (she calls herself Nuyorican) but was active in her commitment to Latino causes.

This commitment is evident on their new album The Navigator which explores many aspects of Puerto Rican culture  and music, but keeps it wrapped in a rocking New York vibe.  Segarra is also a striong feminist, writing songs for an about women.  Her stage presence is a striking combination of “don’t fuck with me” and “I’m going to have a good time.”

Segarra is an excellent front woman. She commands a room and gets everyone involved in her songs.  She told empowering and infuriating stories to introduce the songs which made them even more engaging.

Most of the set came from their new album The Navigator which was great because I love the diversity of the disc.  There were a couple of songs in the middle of the set (which turned out to be older songs I think) that were a little flat musically, but the rest of the set was dynamite. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 16, 2018] Bedouine

When I bought the tickets for Waxahatchee I don’t think I knew who Bedouine was.  Then I saw her on NPR and was absolutely struck by her. I don’t really know what it was, something about her singing style I’m sure, but she was mesmerizing.

So I was really excited to see her live.  I didn’t really even know that much about her:

She was born Azniv Korkezian but chose the artist name Bedouine from the Arabic-speaking Bedouin people, who wander the Middle Eastern desert as nomads.  Azniv herself was born in Aleppo, Syria to Armenian parents; she grew up on an American compound in Saudi Arabia. Her family moved to the U.S [when she was] age 10.

Azniv came out on stage with her guitar and a glass of water and an electric candle on a stool.

She began singing and for 30 minutes we were enveloped in a feeling of warmth and good tidings.  Ironically, she herself was cold up on stage (it was pretty chilly that April night) and she had to warm her hands up after almost every song (the electric candle was no help).

Despite fact that she plays a very quiet guitar and her voice never rises above a quiet deepness, and despite the fact that the headliners were noisier bands, she commanded the room.

She had no set list (and no capo, she lamented after a few songs).  She played seven or eight songs including a couple of new ones.  There was even one song that did not have a name yet (she was looking for suggestions).  I’m looking forward to what she picks.

Her style doesn’t deviate all that much between songs, but her lyrics are interesting and there’s her voice–you can hear virtually every breath as she exhales.  It’s really wonderful.  I enjoyed that she has a song called “Nice and Quiet” which sums up her style quite well.

But despite the dark lighting and reasonably serious subject matter, she was fully engaged with us.  I was only two people from the stage and it often felt like she was singing to each of us individually.  She even made some jokes to the audience: “This song is like one beat faster, so hold on to your hats.”

She also thanked us for coming early and listening to songs we didn’t know.  But “Solitary Daughter” drew quite a reaction of familiarity which made her smile.

I don’t have a setlist, but I’m pretty sure she played

  1. You Kill Me
  2. Nice and Quiet
  3. Back to You
  4. Skyline
  5. new song
  6. Solitary Daughter
  7. Dusty Eyes
  8. One of These Days

There’s a fascinating interview with her on World Cafe.  She talks about working as a sound editor for reality TV before she started singing .  It’s fascinating to hear that she worked on: Cutthroat Kitchen; Catfish: The TV Show and The American Baking Competition.  She describes it as a little soul sucking.

Glad she left that life for this one.

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SOUNDTRACK: HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF-Tiny Desk Concert #702 (February 5, 2018).

I first heard of Hurray for the Riff Raff from their previous album (the song “The Body Electric”).  I loved Segarra’s voice and the politics behind the song.  I could hear that she was a proud woman, but I had no idea that she was a proud Puerto Rican as well.  I learned about that aspect of her music when they played Newport Folk Festival.

Alynda Segarra’s unamplifed voice in this Tiny Desk performance had no problem rising above the drums, congas, cello, violin, bass, keyboards, and an electric guitar. The passion for her Puerto Rican roots feels boundless. As Soul Captain for Hurray for the Riff Raff, she and her band weave tales of man’s inhumanity to fellow humans, often from bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

“Rican Beach” adds a lot more Latinx accents to the music–between the congas and other percussion from Juan-Carlos Chaurand and the riffs and, of course, Segarra’s lyrics, this is a much more culturally aware album without removing any of the folk/rock that the band is built on.

First they stole our language
Then they stole our names
Then they stole the things that brought us faith
And they stole our neighbors
And they stole our streets
And they left us to die on Rican Beach

“Pa’lante,” is such a wonderful mix of the Hispanic and Americana.  Singing in Spanish to Juan and Miguel the song includes a more traditional American folk style with piano (Sarah Goldstone), violin (Claudia Chopek), cello (Patricia Santos) and even a guitar solo (Jordan Hyde).  Introducing the song, she says, “There’s a lot of people trying to hold us back but we have a whole generation of children counting on us to change the world.  And I believe in us.”

The song “Pa’lante,” one of the most articulate songs of a generation, speaks of being colonized and hypnotized, sterilized and dehumanized, with the refrain, “pa’lante” which translates as “forward.”  To continue the fight to freedom and respect:

“To all who lost their pride, I say, Pa’lante!
To all who had to survive, I say, Pa’lante!
To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, Pa’lante!”

But before that empowering end, the opening lyrics speak to the everyday that we all want:  Over  a simple piano melody, she sings:

Oh I just wanna go to work / And get back home, and be something
I just wanna fall and lie / And do my time, and be something
Well I just wanna prove my worth / On the planet Earth, and be, something
I just wanna fall in love / Not fuck it up, and feel something

And then more specifically:

Colonized, and hypnotized, be something
Sterilized, dehumanized, be something
Well take your pay / And stay out the way, be something
Ah do your best / But fuck the rest, be something

After four verses the song shifts gear entirely.  There’s some louder chords and then it moves on to a an almost chamber-pop style with some prominent snare drum Charlie Ferguson.  The end of the song, with her singing “P’alante” it’s catchy and inspiring at the same time.

For “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” Segarra picks up a guitar.  It’s a slower more traditional folk song with full string accompaniment.  There’s quiet backing vocals and delicate yet pronounced bass from Justin Kimmel and some fun percussion before the ending refrain “before you love me like this, oh yeah, love me like this.”

I have tickets to see them and Waxahatchee this spring, it should be a great double bill.

[READ: July 22, 2016] “Sweetness”

I haven’t read very much by Toni Morrison.  I have always intended to but just never did.

So this might be the first thing I’ve read by her.  And man, does it pack a lot into the few pages of it.

The story begins with a woman saying, “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me.”  And then she reveals that what’s not her fault is the color of the skin of her baby.  The woman–the mother–is a light-skinned black woman with “good” hair, “what we call high yellow.”  So was the girl’s father.  So how could the baby have come out so dark-blue black?  She was embarrassed as soon as the baby was born.

She talks about her family’s past–how her own mother was light-skinned and could have passed but chose not to.  She told the price she paid for that decision–colored water fountains and, even more offensive: a colored Bible. (more…)

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